When you think of skills you need to succeed as a developer, many technical ones likely come to mind. What if I told you that there are vital soft skills for developers that you need to succeed?
Perhaps most of these attributes come naturally to you, or maybe many of them don’t. Regardless, there’s always work to be done on our soft skills, and this article will give you the tools you need to get started.
What are Soft Skills?
There are two types of skills: hard and soft. Think of hard skills as technical ones. These include:
- Mobile development
- UI design
- Proficiency with programming languages
...and other things you learn through school, experience, or other training.
Conversely, soft skills relate to how you interact with others and your working style. These aren’t taught in school. Some examples include:
- Time management
While you need plenty of technical skills to succeed, you don’t want to overlook those critical soft skills. In this article, we’ll discuss the ones that make up top skills for software developers.
The Top Software Developer Soft Skills
Alright! Now that you know what these so-called “soft skills” are, it’s time to discuss the ones you need to succeed as a software developer.
As a developer, you’ll find yourself in plenty of team situations. Shockingly, over 85% of employees and executives state that the primary reason for project failure is a lack of teamwork. Don’t be part of the 85%, and focus on cultivating collaboration.
Although teamwork is indisputably beneficial to the company, it also helps you as an employee. Being collaborative and feeling like part of a cohesive team contributes to feelings of belonging. These feelings are likely to make you feel more fulfilled at your company.
Taking the time to socialize with teammates and fellow employees can improve collaboration and communication by 50%. If socials are happening at your organization, it’s not a bad idea to partake in them. Not only are these fun, but they’ll help boost your overall collaboration.
Communication is one of the essential soft skills for developers, and for a good reason.
Coding requires being part of a wider group of people. Collaboration is critical for that group to achieve common goals together, but communication is essential for you as an individual player to effectively synchronize with your team.
To boost your communication skills, implement the following:
- Practice active listening. Many of us listen only to think about how we can jump in or what we’re going to say next. Active listening is far from that. Instead, you focus on giving your full attention, limiting interruptions, accepting silence, and asking thoughtful questions (among some other tactics).
- Speak confidently and clearly. Regardless of if you’re confident or not, present yourself that way. People pay more attention when you do.
- Use appropriate body language. Nonverbal cues are a large part of effective communication. These include eye contact, subtle head nods, an upright and alert posture, and facing the person speaking.
It’s easy to say you feel sorry or excited for someone, but to put yourself in their place is much more challenging. Embodying what someone else is experiencing is called empathy, and it’s one of the essential soft skills for developers.
The most successful developers do their best to understand colleagues and customers, allowing them to do their jobs better. Being empathetic also contributes to being well-liked and viewed as approachable.
In terms of being empathetic towards customers, this helps you build the best product possible. Just because you like the layout or workings of what you’ve made, that doesn’t mean your target audience will, too. By putting yourself in their shoes, you’re building the best product possible.
Still not sure how to improve your empathy? Here are some tips:
- Focus on others. If your natural tendency is to think of yourself first, make a point to consider the welfare and interests of others, too.
- Suspend your own judgments. If your focus rests on critiquing another person's situation, it's hard to feel for them. Suspend those judgments and listen honestly.
- Connect with other people. To feel what another person feels, you must connect to them. This is distinct from "separate knowing," where you dissect the situation and can't put yourself in the person's shoes. Try your hardest to find commonalities with the other person and relate to them.
- Self-disclose only where appropriate. A poor listener is constantly trying to make the situation about his or herself. Instead, listen closely, refrain from interjecting, and only self-disclose if you feel it helps the other party. Although it should be used sparingly, self-disclosure can be an excellent way to connect with the other person and help them out.
Let’s face it: programming comes with many challenges. While that is likely one of the reasons you prefer this field, that doesn’t make it any easier!
To effectively surmount challenges, you’ll need to practice being patient. Here’s how you can get started:
- Recognize your frustrations. Before you submit to feelings of frustration, anger, or outrage, take a moment to think about them.
- Accept that, sometimes, you’ll be uncomfortable. Discomfort leads to growth, but it can also lead to frustration. By changing your attitude towards discomfort, you can begin to practice patience.
- Find your “triggers.” What causes frustration?
- Talk yourself down. Dialogue with yourself is effective. Tell yourself: “yes, this is frustrating, but I’m going to accept it and move on.” Begin cultivating patience this way.
5. Creative Problem-Solving
Problem-solving is one of the most essential soft skills for developers because much of your job involves, well, solving problems. To do so in novel ways, you’ll need to practice creativity.
Some of us are naturally creative and solve problems quickly, while others don’t. Although thinking outside the box to solve problems may not come to you naturally, make an effort to practice it. Don’t shy away from problems; embrace solving them and ask for help where needed.
Developing problem-solving means practicing patience, communication, and collaboration, three of the other software developer soft skills mentioned already. Notice how these skills go hand-in-hand to create the best version of you?
Let’s face it… we all make mistakes. Accountability is one of those soft skills for developers that you can’t neglect. It means taking ownership of your mistakes. Many companies practice an environment of acceptance and don’t scold you for errors, making it easier to fess up when you’ve made an oversight.
Here’s the great thing about mistakes: we all make them. If you didn’t make that particular error, it’s possible someone else would. By owning up to it, you help prevent your colleagues from making those blunders. Similarly, when your peers hold themselves accountable, you can avoid repeating their mistakes.
Mistakes are inevitable, so the most we can do is embrace and learn from them.
Being open-minded is a central part of problem-solving. When you shut down your mind, you neglect to see novel solutions or more projects you can take on.
Work hard to welcome new ideas from your boss, coworkers, clients, and anyone else whose insights you value.
Here are some factors that impact your ability to be open-minded:
- Stop supporting confirmation bias. Confirmation bias refers to the tendency to seek out information that supports your beliefs rather than challenge them and seek evidence to the contrary. Any time you feel the desire to confirm your thoughts through biased research, instead search hard for information to the contrary. From there, you can make an informed decision as to whether or not your belief is actually true.
- Stay humble. Even leading experts in their field don't know everything. No matter if you're extremely versed in a particular area, stay humble. If you feel you know everything on a topic, the Dunning-Kruger Effect kicks in, meaning even those with limited expertise overestimate their expertise and limit their learning potential. Ask your peers for their thoughts, and listen with the intent to understand, not argue.
- Wait it out. When someone disagrees with you, it may be instinctual to argue immediately. Doing this means you enter a cognitive state where you stop hearing their points and are instead solely focused on disproving what they're saying. Alternatively, give them some time to explain their thoughts and hold off with the counterarguments.
The role of software developers is dynamic, meaning you'll need to adapt to change. Change can include alterations to your company's tech stack, your individual team, the projects you work on, and much more.
Being adaptable means having:
- Interpersonal skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Organizational skills
- Teamwork skills
- Communication skils
It should be clear by now that all these soft skills tie into one another; you can't be adaptable without also working on other critical skills mentioned above.
9. Critical Thinking
In line with problem-solving, the best soft skills for developers include critical thinking. When trying to solve problems, you'll need to consider different solutions and think critically about the issue you're facing.
Critical thinking means you're able to recognize weaknesses or errors, reflect on your beliefs, know the significance of different ideas, validate the opinions of others, and systematically solve problems.
Here are some skills you can work on to be a better critical thinker:
- Observation. When you observe carefully, you better understand why a problem is occurring and what you can do to mediate it. Slow down and focus on your environment, slow the pace at which you're processing information, listen carefully and evaluate all options, and don't overlook any bit of evidence.
- Inference. The ability to infer means you can arrive at conclusions based on the information in front of you. Sometimes, information is limited, and you'll need to draw conclusions anyway. The best critical thinkers trust their ability to make inferences and solve problems accordingly.
- Recognize Your Own Biases. As with many soft skills for developers, you need to be able to detect your own biases. Doing so means you can think critically and in an objective manner.
Onwards and Upwards!
By embracing these essential soft skills for developers, you’ll be well on your way to maximizing value and impact. You’ll see your work transform once you do!